Toolkit Offers Guide to Increase Voting in Wisconsin Jails

MILWAUKEE – All Voting is Local Wisconsin and the ACLU of Wisconsin today released a Ballots for All Toolkit that supplements their recently released report “Ballots for All: Ensuring Eligible Wisconsin Voters in Jail Have Equal Access to the Ballot”. The toolkit offers voting advocates strategies for urging county officials to adopt policies so every eligible voter in jail can vote. 

There are typically about 12,500 Wisconsinites in county jails on any given day – the vast majority of whom are eligible to vote. Jails are required by law to provide ballots and registration opportunities to all eligible voters including people serving misdemeanor sentences (except misdemeanors for treason or bribery), or who are awaiting trial. However, of the 61 jails that responded to our records requests, only one had a detailed policy on how people in their care could register to vote and cast their ballots. 

“The findings in the report, while staggering, were expected and are clearly a violation of the government’s responsibility to make voting accessible to all. This needs to be remedied before the November election,” said Shauntay Nelson, All Voting is Local Wisconsin state director. “We all have a role to play to ensure all voices are heard. We created this toolkit to give advocates the resources to push for change so that all eligible voters have the ability to exercise their right to cast a ballot. There’s no excuse.” 

The toolkit includes concrete recommendations about how to engage county sheriffs, the media, and advocates to help remedy the shortfalls identified in the initial report. Among the tools: a policy checklist, sample letters to the editor, and strategic guidance for how people can support voter registration in jails. 

“Policy recommendations outlined in the report itself need only commitment from Wisconsin’s sheriffs, coupled with informed people in their care, to become reality. Advocacy methods identified in this toolkit, ranging from preparing talking points for sheriff meetings to sending informational postcards directly to people in jails, are easy ways that Wisconsin at-large can play a role in meeting these needs,” said Ryeshia Farmer, ACLU of Wisconsin’s Rights For All Campaign Coordinator. “We must implement policies and procedures that make the right to vote in jail as practical as it is theoretical.”

 

The toolkit can be found here